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Groups Rally For and Against Planned Arabic-Themed Public School in Brooklyn

(MyFoxNY.com) NEW YORK — A planned Arabic-themed public school in Brooklyn has prompted polarized reactions. Critics warned Monday that students could be “indoctrinated” with radical Islamic beliefs and supporters called such statements “racist.”

The Khalil Gibran International Academy has generated controversy almost from the start (watch report: Arabic Studies School Expected to Open in Brooklyn). Supporters rallied Monday in favor of the school, gathering in front of the city’s Department of Education. Officials there have said they plan to open the academy on schedule on Sept. 4 despite statements by its vocal critics equating it with a madrassa, an Islamic religious school, and portraying it as a potential radical training ground.

The school is named for Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese-American Christian poet. (Read his works.)

The school first principal resigned after criticism over her affiliation with a group that sells t-shirts with the word “intifada” on them. Debbie Almontaser called it quits after she failed to condemn the use of the highly charged word, an Arabic term for the Palestinian uprising against Israel. The DOE appointed an interim replacement, Danielle Salzburg, on August 13. Her appointment has drawn its own controversy because she is Jewish and doesn’t speak Arabic.

New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) said the school’s children could be “indoctrinated” and warned in a statement that “establishment of an Arab school is a misguided and dangerous idea.” He wrote a letter to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to protest the school’s opening.

He released the following statement:

“[Almontaser] said that ‘intifada’ means to ‘shake off.’ We know that ‘intifada’ means the killing of innocent men, women and children. And now, the sponsors and organizational endorsers of the school advance a boycott of Israel and divestment. Is this what we want taught in our public schools? Is this how we want New York children to be indoctrinated?

“Instead of enriching our students’ grasp of diverse cultures, will this school become a morass of polarization and justification of terror tactics? Establishment of an Arab school is a misguided and dangerous idea. I am calling on you, as Chancellor, to abolish this school before it becomes firmly entrenched. At first I embraced the idea (of a school which teaches the Arabic language) albeit, somewhat less than enthusiastically, but nevertheless, I felt the country needed skilled students steeped in Arab language and culture.

“All signs point to this concept as being a precarious mistake, especially with its radical endorsements. Do we want a school to teach its students that Hamas militants are freedom fighters, and that Israel is an apartheid state? This school is ill-advised. It will not, as suggested, be a hope for peace; it is a blueprint for anti-Israel and anti-U.S. extremism. As per their website mideastjustice.org, Adalah-NY ‘supports boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.’ The school should not be opened for the September term.”

Meantime also Monday, the New York Immigration Coalition rallied outside the Department of Education to voice support of the school, calling for city and school officials to stand firmly behind the program. “If we are to truly ensure the success of the Khalil Gibran school, its defenders, including the mayor, chancellor, and the broader community, must vigorously condemn accusations challenging the school’s legitimacy in the first place — accusations that a theme-based school that teaches Arabic language and culture is somehow likely to promote radical Islam and terrorism,” said Alwan for the Arts, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the New York Arab American Association, in a joint statement.

The groups released this statement:

“The controversy swirling around the city’s first Arabic dual-language school has created a mess and cries out for a clear and direct response from Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein on two levels: first, ensuring the opening of the school as originally planned; and second, condemning the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim attacks on the school.

“On the first point, the mayor and chancellor deserve credit for sticking with the original plan and intent to open the school. Dual-language schools like the Khalil Gibran International Academy deserve everyone’s support. There are more than 60 dual-language programs throughout the city already, featuring languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Haitian-Creole, and Russian. Far from being the ‘separatist ethnic enclaves’ alleged by critics, these programs are among the most effective at bringing together immigrant and native-born students from diverse backgrounds.

“When done right, these programs have proven highly beneficial, both for immigrant schoolchildren who are learning English and for native-born students who gain fluency in another language. In an increasingly global society, it makes good sense to give our children the opportunity to become fluent in two or more languages, while also ensuring that they meet state Regents standards and earn a high-school diploma.”

The Department of Education released this statement:

“The Department is focused on preparing Khalil Gibran International Academy for the first day of school. The constituents who matter most-students, families, teachers, and other school staff-share our commitment to the school’s vision and are dedicated to working together with our partners to make the coming school year a success. We are confident that the school will provide New York City public school students with a high-quality, rigorous education.

“Khalil Gibran is one of more than 200 new small schools in New York City. These schools have compiled a strong record of engaging students and helping raise their performance. We expect Khalil Gibran International Academy to help its students reach new levels of academic achievement. ”

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August 21, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Homeland security, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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